Friday, September 25, 2009

Astronomers Without Borders - One People, One Sky - Live Event

ring neb 60sec 2
Ring Nebula

I participated in the first live star party put on by Astronomers Without Boarders over the internet today. Dr. Gianluca Masi of the Bellatrix Observatory in Ceccano Italy hosted this live web event. About 100 people from all over the world logged in to hear Dr. Masi discuss astronomy and see, in real-time, what he was viewing. I've captured some shots of what we viewed over this two hour period. AWB will post a video and the original images shortly. I'll try to post links when they are available.

The first picture, above, is the Ring Nebula, otherwise known as M57 or NGC 6720. It's about 5000 light years away from us. That means it took 5000 years for the photons that comprise this image to travel across the universe, into Gianluca's telescope, into his ccd (camera), through the internet, into my house and eventually on my blog and into your eye. I'll let you follow the links for more details.

Click any of these images to embiggen.

The next object we saw was M13, the Hercules Globular Cluster:

m13 30 sec

Dr. Masi provided a variety of exposure times to show us lesser or greater detail. There are more pictures of this in my AWB Set on Flickr. M13 is about 25,100 light years from earth and about 145 light years in diameter.

Next we were swept close to home to view Jupiter:

jupiter red spot

This image is a number of pictures "stacked" together to show greater detail. If you click to embiggen and then zoom in, you can clearly see Jupiter's big storm called the "Great Red Spot." The Great Red Spot is a huge storm in Jupiter's atmosphere. This storm has been raging for at least 180 years or so and about 2 or 3 Earth sized planets could fit inside it.

Here is another shot of Jupiter with it's four main moons. This shot also shows the desktop that Dr. Masi was using and a map of which moons are which.

jupiter and sat map

I think I have the order of these pictures a little messed up. I actually think the second thing we was Comet Christensen here:

Comet Christensen

I tried to find a link to more details of this comet but apparently there are many comet's named Christensen. hmmm...a little help here...

Here is an interesting spiral galaxy called NGC 7331.

NGC 7331

This galaxy is sometimes known as the Milky Way's twin. This galaxy is about 40 million light years from Earth!

Throughout the whole event, Dr. Masi (and others) would answer questions we typed into the chat box. He was very friendly and answered every question professionally. There were some audio issues but overall the event went off every well. I'm sure the next event will be even better. Go to the Astronomers Without Borders website to sign up for their newsletter or visit the Virtual Telescope Project on Facebook.

For his grand finale, Dr. Masi took us to the Stephan's Quintet. This is a group of five galaxies, four of which comprise the first compact galaxy group discovered.

NGC 7317

I can see four in this shot. The fifth eludes me.

Overall, this was a great event. I highly recommend that you join AWB to get the latest information on their next event. It was really cool sitting in my own comfortable basement with no mosquitoes or unruly weather while visiting the cosmos.

Many more pictures of this event are available in my Astronomers Without Borders Flickr Set. I have some shot of the desktop that was used and some of the processing software we saw.


  1. Great blog! I was one of the people taking part yesterday, and it was a great event. In fact, Gianluca's says that there were 650 unique visitors from 35 countries! It really was wonderful, and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and pictures of the event.


  2. @Terry: Thanks for the kind words. I really enjoyed the event. I'm hoping that your next event works out on my calendar as well as this one did.


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